Office of Student Affairs Unveils New Website myHunterJohn Bolger
Additional Reporting Bridgit Boulahanis
Late last month the Office of Student Services sent out a mass email to the student body notifying them that they had been automatically enrolled in a new web service called myHunter. The website consists of links to external services as well as a weekly poll and a calender.
The myHunter service is provided to Hunter by Hobsons, a Cincinnati-based company which specializes in developing software for higher educational institutions. MyHunter was built on top of Hobsons' Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. According to information from Hobsons' website, Hobsons CRM is designed to provide college institutions with a web platform to manage students and track their usage of the website as well as their responsiveness to CRM-generated emails. Hobsons CRM generates reports based on the information it collects for client institutions to evaluate their marketing and recruiting techniques.
Hunter has been a client of Hobsons since 2008, when Hobsons CRM was used to power Hunter's MyChoice, a web service which was targeted at prospective and recently admitted students to provide information such as upcoming dates and deadlines. According to a report given before the college senate by president Jennifer Raab November 2009, implementing Hobsons CRM resulted in increased and better managed communications with prospective students by providing them with a webpage that was tailored to their needs.
The newly unveiled myHunter includes links to popular CUNY services, such as Blackboard and Hunter webmail along the top of the page. In the body and sidebars of the site are updates on things happening around Hunter, including upcoming sports events. Of interest, however, is that a large portion of the hyperlinks on the myHunter page are hooked into Hobsons' tracking software.
Links ending in “ClickThru” will log information about the visitor when clicked before relaying a browser to the expected destination. According to a phone conversation with a customer service representative at Hobsons, The ClickThru feature is in fact used for tracking purposes, however the information collected at click time varies on a client to client basis. This technique of click tracking is one of the most popular forms of visitor monitoring on the internet and it is used by many popular websites, like Google and Yahoo.
MyHunter also uses Google Analytics, a service offered by Google which compiles detailed information about visitors and their behavior on a given webpage and stores that information in their database.
Amanda Fuentes Lorens, manager for CRM and special projects with Hunter's Office of Student Affairs, said she wasn't sure that Google Analytics was on myHunter but that she was aware that Hobsons offered Google Analytics in its CRM product. She was aware of Google Analytics features, however. “Google Analytics is very broad in terms of the information that it can give you,” she said. “It gives you information about location, where students are logging in, who is visiting.”
Hunter College's relationship with Hobsons began in the Department of Recruitment and Outreach in 2008. According to the department's strategic plan for 2006 to 2010, it was the department's intention to obtain a Hobsons CRM for Hunter college to “allow every student who visits our webpage to create a prospective profile which would allow us to evaluate our recruitment techniques.
Another goal of the strategic plan was to use the CRM to improve the department’s ability to communicate with students during admissions. Hobsons CRM offers email features which allow colleges to send out emails to students and to monitor their responsiveness using ClickThru links.
“We respect student privacy of course,” said Lorens. “It [Hobsons] is a resource that's there to benefit for you and we don't want to infringe upon that, so it [tracking features] is not something we are actively pursuing."
Lorens said that myHunter's purpose was to organize useful links on to a single webpage for student's to have more convenient access to Hunter's web services. According to Lorens, the Office of Student Affairs had received mostly positive feedback from students, however a common complaint among students was that web services such as Blackboard and Hunter webmail required a user to perform a separate log in.
“Our focus is shifting towards centralized authentication for services that you utilize your netID and password for,” she said. “Students are not necessarily finding it as much a benefit to necessarily have the links, to have to reauthenticate each time is somewhat redundant.” Lorens said that she was consulting ICIT on how to get myHunter to allow authentication to the external CUNY services.
Lorens said that roughly 50% of degree students have logged into myHunter at least once. A poll conducted of 104 students verified this claim with 40 students reporting having tried myHunter. Of the students who said they have tried myHunter, most said they have only logged in once.